Good Lord Bird Series

Having recently delivered the best performance of his career in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke is going to give TV a try. The actor will star as 19th-century abolitionist John Brown in the Showtime limited series Good Lord Bird, adapted from the James McBride novel of the same name. Hawke will also co-write and executive produce the series, with Underground‘s Anthony Hemingway directing.

Showtime has ordered Good Lord Bird as an eight-part limited series from Blumhouse Television. Here’s the synopsis of the original novel, from James McBride:

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.

Hawke will play Brown and co-write with Mark Richard. Anthony Hemingway, who helmed five episodes of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, is directing.

“With all that is going on culturally, socially and politically, the climate is ripe for material that is culturally relevant and provocative,” said Hemingway. “Literature is truly transcendent and McBride blew our minds with The Good Lord Bird. Saying yes was apparent for me and my producing partner, Lyah LeFlore-Ituen. Directorially, this will be filmmaking at its most artistic and I get to fulfill a bucket list experience – working with the incredible Ethan Hawke.”

Hawke added:

Good Lord Bird is one of my favorite books, told with wit, grace and wisdom by the great James McBride. Bringing this story to the screen has been a passion project of mine, and I am incredibly fortunate to have partners who are equally enthusiastic and are making it a reality – my wife and producing partner Ryan Hawke, and my longtime friends at Blumhouse. I’m looking forward to working for the first time with the talented folks at Showtime and Anthony Hemingway – both of whom have made some of the best television in the last couple years.”

“This is just the right time for The Good Lord Bird,” said author James McBride. “I wrote it to show we Americans are Family – dysfunctional, screwy, funny, even dangerous to one another at times, but still family nonetheless. Old John Brown always had a knack for landing into the right place at the right time. I’m delighted he’s landed in the lap of one of America’s most gifted and literate actors. Ethan Hawke is special, and I’m thankful that Showtime and Blumhouse have shown faith and trust in one of America’s oddest, most profound, and greatest heroes.”

Hawke is one of those actors who always gives his all, no matter what the project. Serious drama or silly vampire film, he’s never phoning it in. With Good Lord Bird, he appears to have found a special project, one that will no doubt get serious attention when it arrives.

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